Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
Jason S. Miyares
202 North 9th Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Virginia Relay Service
For media inquiries only, contact:
Attorney General Miyares Joins Bipartisan Multistate Coalition in U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Big Tech Accountable
Richmond, VA – Attorney General Jason Miyares announced today that Virginia joined a bipartisan coalition of 25 States and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief at the United States Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Google. The brief urges the Court to interpret Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (1996) narrowly to ensure technology companies remain accountable to state consumer protection laws.
In the brief, the States explain that the judicial expansion of internet "publisher” immunity under Section 230 has severely hampered their ability to remedy internet-related wrongs. Although originally enacted to serve as a narrow protection from defamation liability, Section 230 has become an all-purpose license to target ordinary users with potentially harmful third-party conduct while profiting from it. This broad interpretation of Section 230 has resulted in the widespread preemption of state laws and the concomitant erosion of traditional state authority to allocate loss among private parties.
"Over the past twenty years, information technology has rapidly advanced, making the internet a dramatically different place than it was when Section 230 was originally enacted. In order for our technology laws to be effective and ensure consumers are protected, these laws must modernize as technology does to ensure that social media companies claiming Section 230 immunity are not exploiting users,” said Attorney General Miyares.
The case emerged from a lawsuit stemming from the murder of 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez in 2015. Gonzalez, along with at least 130 other people, was killed in Paris in an attack by ISIS-affiliated terrorists. Gonzalez's family filed suit alleging that YouTube's algorithms led users toward recruitment videos for ISIS, and therefore Google, YouTube's parent company, was partially responsible for Nohemi's death. Google claimed that Section 230, which says internet companies cannot be liable as publishers for material posted by users, prevented any liability. The trial court decided that Section 230 meant a court could not consider whether the company might be liable for the effect of its algorithms, and a divided panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
If the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts' ruling and adopts a narrower interpretation of the law based on the actual text of the statute, companies could no longer claim blanket immunity under Section 230 and States could hold technology companies accountable for unfair and deceptive conduct toward consumers. This bipartisan coalition of attorneys general urge this Court to adopt an interpretation of publisher immunity that preserves the States' traditional authority to allocate loss among private parties.
Attorney General Miyares is joined in this effort by attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
To read the filing in its entirety, click here.